Doug Stanhope

Doug Stanhope

Stanhope says he was living off fraud telemarketing and the kindness of strippers in Las Vegas, when he first ventured onto the stage of an open mic comedy night at a seedy bar called the Escape Lounge II.

When all the strippers left for band guys, Doug traipsed down to Phoenix on the tail of a woman and landed a gig as a house MC at the Comedy Cove, a club as doomed to failure as the relationship. The girl left him nine months later for the lighting guy from Cheap Trick . The club shut down around the same time, but not before Doug had enough contacts to start a life on the road.

In December of 1992, Doug packed his few belongings in a 1981 Dodge Omni and spent the next three years living on the road like a pig, getting drunk, chasing women and spewing "dick jokes" across America like a crop duster until his break at the 1995 San Francisco comedy festival enabled him to move to Los Angeles.

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Doug Stanhope: The Dying Of A Last Breed

Review by Steve Bennett

‘Brutal’ is probably an over-used adjective to describe edgelord comedy, but if any stand-up can lay claim to it, Doug Stanhope can.

 The Dying of a Last Breed is another typically relentless, vicious assault on polite sensibilities from the embittered, eloquent and emphatic nihilist.

 A routine in his new self-released special that will definitely leave an impact is an out-and-out racist rant against weak, effete Indian men that is designed to be as horribly uncomfortable as possible. Stanhope frames his bigotry as valid in the context of emancipating gang-rapists, which might be intellectually justifiable, but only serves to pour more petrol on the flames of outrage. 

He revels in the mixed reactions. Some release the tension through gallows laughter, others will find it too problematic to enjoy, and a third group yet might even agree - to the extent he has to distance himself from any racists who might mistake him for a fellow traveller. The defence that ‘just because bigots like my stuff unironically doesn’t make me a bigot’ is morally thin ice, but Stanhope likes the thrill of dancing there.

Indeed, prepared statements of crocodile-tear, sorry-not-sorry apologies for any offence caused are a running joke, a commentary on the cultural tug-of-war that comedy finds itself caught in the middle of. Like many comedians of his ilk, defending bad-taste comedy is now an essential part of his set, justifying why ‘making fun of’ something grim can never be bad.

He doesn’t build incrementally to the bleak stuff, either: the very first routine is about dead children, throwing in some abortion material for good measure. His uncharitable response to tragic stories amplifies a split-second of hard-hearted thought many people might have, and serves as a catharsis for the guilt that engenders.

Any lack of charity seems justified by his ultra-low status. He vividly describes the seedy life of a road comic, flitting from one drab motel room to the next. In fact, as a proud scuzzball, he appreciates hanging out in lowlife dives that are at least honest about themselves over disappointing beige two-and-a-half-star off-freeway chains.

This is depicted in a breathless stream-of-consciousness diatribe that draws laughs from its relentless stream of bluntly unforgiving descriptions. It’s a technique he uses again later in a grim portrait of old age, the rhythms of his delivery and his sheer determination to batter the Las Vegas audience with the imagery overwhelm any sympathy for the poor saps he describes in what’s another darkly funny chunk.

There are some lulls over the course of the special, especially in some of the tales that have a ‘lads on tour’ banter vibe with more frat-boy swagger than content - despite Stanhope’s bid to put a #MeToo spin on it. And even some quite robust sensibilities might be challenged by some of the more line-crossing material, however much you have to admire his cojones in pushing ahead so determinedly.

Yes, he might be brutal, but so, he would argue, is life. Might as well try to make fun of it.

Doug Stanhope: The Dying Of A Last Breed was released this week via  Vimeo, where it is available for £8.05.

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Published: 27 May 2020

Doug Stanhope

Review Being billed as the natural successor…


Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2002

Velvet Laugher Master Series

Edinburgh Fringe 2004

Doug Stanhope

Edinburgh Fringe 2006

Doug Stanhope

Edinburgh Fringe 2008

Day With Doug

Misc live shows

Pimm's Summerfest


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